Every given year there are between two and five solar eclipses, this upcoming one for August 21st will be special. The last total solar eclipse for North America goes back to 2008. As Earth is largely covered by water, many of the eclipses are over the ocean where the number of viewers are limited. But this one will pass over millions of people, all with access to equipment and social media to share their experience. Hence this one has lots of people planning and getting ready. The eclipse is most impressive when you’re located in the path of totality; where the Moon completely blocks out the Sun. Hence if you are able to travel to such a location along its path, it will be worth it. I also suggest finding a local astronomy group or association as they will most-likely have telescopes and other special observing gear out for everyone to use.
The total solar eclipse will only be viewed in the narrow path crossing the middle of the USA. North and south of that will get a partial eclipse. The green vertical lines indicate the time of maximum eclipse. Courtesy Michael Zeiler, GreatAmericanEclipse.com.
Observing the solar eclipse requires protective eye-wear and solar filters for any observing or photographic equipment. For my telescope it’s a film solar filter, now branded SolarLite by Thousand Oaks Optical. These can be purchased already mounted in an aluminium cell or in sheets for your own custom application.
Thousand Oaks Optical R-G Solar Filter
The American Astronomical Society has created a web site just for the event with plenty of information on safe observation and suppliers of necessary optical filters.
Below are some of the comets to keep a watch for in 2017 as they should be observable with small scopes and even binoculars.
Currently observable low in the evening at around magnitude 8 and will continue to brighten to magnitude 7 in January and then fade rapidly, including a approach to within 0.08AU of Earth on February 11th, as well as passing within a few degrees of globular cluster M3 shortly after.
Photo from January 6th.
C/2016 U1 ( NEOWISE )
Currently observable at magnitude 9 and predicted to brighten to magnitude 7 in mid January. Discovered on October 21, 2016. Not visible in the southern hemisphere.
C/2015 V2 ( Johnson )
Faint at magnitude 12, and will continue to brighten until mid 2017, with good chances of observation.
C/2015 ER61 ( PanSTARRS )
Should brighten to magnitude 7 spring of 2017, unfortunately not very visible to the northern latitudes. However it will cross many NGC and Messier objects throughout the first half of the year.
Expected to brighten to magnitude 6-7 around at the start of March, overall visible for about 45 days. For those in the northern hemisphere, best observations will be the end of February.
Expected to brighten to better than magnitude 6 in early April. A good opportunity for wide-field photo as it passes 5° of M92 at the end of April.
Photo from April 13th.
Seiichi Yoshida’s Bright Comet Listing (and future listing)
Paper by the British Astronomical Association